If there is one thing I’ve learned from Titanfall 2’s single player campaign, it’s that the bond between man and machine is special and unbreakable. In the first five minutes, undergoing the traditional training found in most first-person shooters came to an abrupt end as I was needed in the field, just as it was getting juicy too, introducing me to my new mechanical companion. I’m soon stuffed into a drop-pod like stuffing in a cold Christmas turkey and sent down to the surface of Typhon, a planet ravaged by war and overrun by fearsome wildlife. Touching down, I’m greeted with death and destruction, my commanding officer lay dying, and with his final breath he transfers ownership of his trusty mech, BT, to me.
It’s a breath of clean, fresh air as the first Titanfall didn’t even have a single-player campaign, and it’s not like we haven’t seen a one-man-and-his-robot-buddy setup before. What Titanfall 2 does, though, is make you care. You end up wanting BT to survive the many fast-paced firefights the campaign is filled to the brim with. He has a personality that is endearing, praising you, as pilot Jack Cooper, on your growing skills after surviving a tense shootout. You’re given a choice on how to respond at times: Do you thank BT or tell him how scary it was? In the end it doesn’t really matter, as it’s just dialogue. There is no butterfly effect or consequence on how you speak to BT, he will obey you regardless.
The stages of the campaign are scripted. You can only embark BT during certain sections, as other sections force you to separate. On foot your wall-running and double jump abilities take the lead as the main path often requires you to chain the two together to progress. Wall-running feels exhilarating and a lot less spongy this time around. You can feel your feet cling to the wall, but it doesn’t compromise the smoothness as you transition from one wall to another.
Combat is solid and punchy in Titanfall 2. Every gun carries big weight behind it as your enemies crumble. They can pack a punch too. It takes around three or four hits to take you down. Enemy types are scarce, unfortunately. Enemy soldiers and Spectres (robots) are your main opponents, but you will face some fancy yet fearsome looking dino-dog types. There are plenty of weapons available to take them on, though. Classic submachine guns and rifles to laser and launcher weapons are never far away as well as frag and EMP stun grenades or, my personal favorite, Firestars, which are jazzed up incendiary ninja stars.
Embarking BT allows you to battle the more formidable opponent types, Titans. These robots take some beating to bring them down, forcing you to use BT’s dodge ability a lot, and you’ll find Titan classes as you progress which change BT’s full loadout. These range from the Ion class which gives BT a Splitter Rifle, cutting down foes with powerful laser blasts, and a shoulder mounted laser weapon, and there is the Scorch class which gives BT a Thermite Launcher, a single shot weapon that deals fire damage, alongside a wave attack that causes an unstoppable volcanic wave to raise from the ground. BT can switch these on-the-fly to deal with different situations, and they’re easily managed. The most difficult situations you’ll encounter within the campaign are the boss battles. These are basic one-to-one fights that require more than brute force to overcome as you take on highly decorated mechs in a welcome change of pace.
The campaign also plays around with other components such as a device you find that attaches to your hand. Pressing your ability button, which is usually used for cloaking, activates this device which zips you to the past. It changes everything such as environments, enemy types, and placements and also opens up pathways. It’s a game changer, but it unfortunately doesn’t last very long since it gets stripped from you just as you start getting the hang of it.
Developers Respawn Entertainment have done extremely well in the execution. Although the plot moves at lightning speed and is mainly nonsense, other than the constantly growing relationship between Cooper and BT, some fantastic moments can be found here along with some great set piece shootouts (the assembly line is a clear cut highlight) and fantastic visuals.
Titanfall 2 looks superb. Titans are teeming with personality with different paint jobs and artwork. The campaign-specific wildlife is well designed too, having a ferocious dinosaur feel to them. It’s tough not to stop and look around. Environments range from cliffs and rocky ravines to factories, sewage systems, and makeshift urban arenas, each with minor details that add to the aesthetic. The action is the main star of the show. Crackling gunshots and marching Spectres explode around you as enemies desperately try to take you down. Successfully sneaking up behind an enemy activates a spectacular execution animation that is seriously satisfying to watch.
Multiplayer is where Titanfall 2 excels the most, as it should considering it’s predecessor was primarily focused on it. Everything introduced and used in the campaign is found here including pilot and Titan movement and abilities, loadouts, and weapons. For those new to Titanfall (mainly PlayStation 4 owners as the first game was an Xbox One exclusive), multiplayer plays similarly to Call of Duty. Two teams of pilots battle each other in an array of modes which vary their scoring parameters. The main difference here is the ability to summon your Titan once your Titan gauge is filled. This sparks a spectacle in which your Titan drops from the sky ready for you to embark or to aid you. There are more Titan builds and pilot loadouts to choose from this time around which match the ones seen during the campaign. This time though each Titan loadout has its own chassis and design (six in total), some being heavier than others making them slower and more difficult to handle. Pilots have the same kind of thing too, except pilots’ appearances are determined by which unique ability you choose. These abilities range from the awesome grappling hook which makes traversal better and allows you to latch onto surfaces like Spider-Man or onto Titans to climb onto them. You can also choose to be stealthy with the cloaking ability seen in the campaign. Each one has its own benefits and downfalls.
Titanfall 2′s multiplayer constantly rewards you as you level up your pilot or Titan. It also rewards you with new unlockables when you get kills from your main weapon or anti-Titan weapon. These rewards certainly enhance your experience with new attachments such as sights for your weaponry and colours for your pilot or Titan, as well as new unlocks such as grenade types and even hood designs for your Titan’s cockpit door, meaning you can strike fear into your opponents by slapping on a skull design.
The modes may feel familiar to first-person shooter veterans. Kill everything modes such as Attrition and Team Deathmatch allow you to hunt the enemy team down, gaining as many kills as possible. If you want to play something with objectives, Amped Hardpoint is a Domination/Conquest (Call of Duty and Battlefield players will know what this means) type in which teams compete to capture and keep three areas spread throughout the maps.
Map designs are fantastic, making pilots use their free running abilities to further advantage. Some are more vertical than others. The urban Eden map has a nice contrast of indoor and outdoor environments, and Crash Site has a lot of rocky surfaces to contend with. Each one looks great and makes combat more than just running around like an idiot and shooting anything that moves, although you won’t be blamed if you choose that method. The insanely quick mobility and chaining together slick knee slides and Mirror’s Edge-style wall runs feel incredible, as does calling down your trusty Titan to wreak more havoc on any poor soul that gets in your way. If you find yourself outgunned, you could always equip the Nuclear Eject mod that makes your Titan explode as you pop out, creating a huge shockwave that takes out anyone in the immediate vicinity. Very cool.
For the gambling man (or woman) a brand new game mode makes its debut here called Coliseum which pits pilots mano-e-mano in small circular arenas. It costs precious credits to compete and both competitors have the same loadouts, but the winner takes all. A great addition if you like to take a bit of a risk or think of yourself as a Titanfall pro.
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
Publisher: EA Games
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 28th October 2016